You’ve got your synth sounds. You’ve got your orchestral sample libraries. And they’ve always been separate – until now.

Output, the California-based sound design shop, have already built a reputation around sound libraries that mix this with that and bank on novel and on-trend sound design concepts. And roughly this time last year, they took this approach to combining string orchestras and synth strings.

But bringing the analog + acoustic blend to wind and brass may be even more vital because, well, brass and winds are a fairly particular thing to have to design… I mean, let’s be honest, how many people really look forward to brass and winds?

So, what you get are sounds that will genuinely get you excited instead of make you cringe. And oddly, combining in tape loops and vintage instruments makes this category sounds more contemporary.

As per usual, the Output experience isn’t just about calling up a preset you like, but being able to easily dial in exactly the blend and flavor you want.

Let’s break down that interface. Even from the overview screen and macro controls, you get a view to the layered sample-based sound engine beneath (plus some pretty abstracted brass wind bodies):

As in past Output products, once you get into Sources, you see the core of the sounds. Output’s products start with a wide arsenal of sounds that feel a bit like getting to steal a top producer’s hard drive. (Please don’t do that. But you get the idea.) Here, this includes one-shots, more continuous textures (“pads”), and crunchy tape loops, which basically involve the acoustic sources, the vintage synth sources, and then “everything else” / more off-the-wall bits (categorized as “creative”). That’s what gives the resulting stew a forward-thinking sound.

“Rhythm” is where invariably you can go from “oh, isn’t this sound cool” to “oh, I can actually finish this entire track with this plug-in.” Note that you have both synchronized and free (“flux”) modes, and the ability to layer modulations atop your modulated sounds.

This is, again, why Output stuff so nicely merges between preset-dialing and creative sound design – just changing an individual element can have an enormous impact, if you like.

There’s also the usual, tasty-sounding effects section.

If there’s any criticism here, it’s that Output have stuck with their existing sample-based architecture, rather than open up the possibility of, say, some physical modeling. (Underneath the hood here, it’s all the Kontakt sampler.) On the other hand, those models can be processor-intensive and unpredictable, whereas you can dump all of Output’s products on a quick external drive (which is inexpensive these days) and be assured of reliable sound results. I am curious what Output may have next, though, whether they’ve got more ideas for this approach or something else altogether.

Oh, one more thing – this all supports Native Instruments’ NKS, which means I’ll give it a try with the likes of Maschine and the new Komplete Kontrol keyboards, as there’s some interesting potential for live performance with the snapshots and such. Stay tuned for that!

Cost: US$199. But betcha earn that back on a good commission with it.

Requisite video walkthrough:


  • “I mean, let’s be honest, how many people really look forward to brass and winds?”
    “So, what you get are sounds that will genuinely get you excited instead of make you cringe.”

    Hm? Not quite sure what you imply here, Peter. People don’t like to work with brass and woodwinds?

    • max

      when was the last time you thought uh I really need French horns here? 😉

  • Lindon Parker

    Is anyone else getting a little suspicious about this coverage? I realise I’m a competitor(in some small way) of Output, so I may be over-sensitive, but the idea that Output is doing something novel or original with this “analog + acoustic blend” and this synthesis meets sampling, is either disingenuous or ill-informed.
    Peter has said a number of times he’s “not particularly interested in sample libraries” and OK, I think that’s a little narrow minded, especially as there are a number of interesting vendors doing at least what Output are doing if not more innovative work with these tools. But OK it is his site – so his choices. But then to see a very limited number of (comparatively expensive) libraries from the same set of sample library developers being featured, and praised for (at times) emulative work is galling to say the least. I’m sure it’s not that Output (and their featured cohorts) are advertisers here, and we are not, but I’ve sent emails to Peter on several occasions trying to get him to look at the innovative and interesting work being done in this field (not just by us) – so I don’t think he can claim he hasn’t been pointed at this material. It’s beginning (after 10 years of reading this site) to make me think the material here isn’t as even-handed as it might be. Don’t get me wrong there are many many great articles here still – the recent one on TX Modular and VCV Rack come to mind – but as I say maybe I’m just being an over-sensitive Output-competitor

    • Only been reading this site for about a year but “even-handed” wouldn’t be the first word which would come to my mind when thinking about it. In fact, that might be part of its charm.

      Peter’s idiosyncratic and selective approach to digital music is a big part of the site’s personality.

      Sure, there are other voices coming through here, on occasion (including Ashley’s). And Peter’s open-minded enough to venture outside of the expected “electronic music” coverage, once in a while. But there’s still a definite ‘tude behind CDM. You’re more likely to hear about children shows from the ‘70’s or about Nadia Boulanger than about Sonic Pi or Stromae, for instance.

      What’s interesting about sample libraries, in this case, is that they’re part of a renewed conversation about things like business models and creativity. When Peter did a post about with an emphasis on the connection to Native Instruments, the subtext sounded like it might echo previous coverage of soundware as a commodity. Peter does sound like he cares about this part of the business. In terms of content, he selectively listens to what he finds most interesting in his personal tastes.

    • Martin Wheeler

      I think you are maybe being a little harsh there. My guess is that Peter’s fields of interest and expertise are simply more at the overtly electronic end of things. I think he probably doesn’t much follow or particularly care about what is happening in the sample library space. And that’s fine, as those of us that are also interested in that side of things have vi-control which is focused precisely on all that. For sure the big innovators in sample libraries like VirHarmonic, Soniccouture, OT, Sonokinetic etc don’t get any coverage here and as far as I can remember, the only time even Spitfire Audio got covered was for Phobos which is just about the only electronic library they have in a catalogue of hundreds ! So … horses for courses I guess. I do get your frustration, and for sure if CDM does want to cover that scene, then it might be good to get someone in who really knows the area, because just covering Output does seem a bit odd – but then again this is not necessarily nefarious – Output seem to market more to the more general NI market than many other developers who are more focused on the film composer / orchestral whatever market so maybe Output feed/hassle Peter for coverage wheras VirHarmonic et al don’t. This is of course pure speculation on my part !

      • “if CDM does want to cover that scene, then it might be good to get someone in who really knows the area”
        Sounds like a great idea!

        And thanks for the reference to vi-control. Will check that out.

        • Martin Wheeler

          Well, OK, but taken out of context that sounds like I’m having a bit of a go at Peter, wheras I was actually kind of defending him 😉 What I meant was that CDM is Peter’s baby, and it is a very, very useful and cool place, and if Peter naturally gravitates to the ‘electronic’ end and, as he more or less says himself, normally doesn’t get off on brass and winds ( or perhps sampled acoustic instruments in general) , well that’s groovy. We just shouldn’t imagine that coverage of the sample based VI space will be anything other than coming from that particular perspective – unless someone with a wider interest in such things turns up. Hope that is clearer.

          • Very clear. Didn’t want to pull that quote out to tease you, or anything. It’s just that we’re describing the same thing. (Wanted to make the same point and found out that you had already made it. Seized the opportunity, probably because this has been a week of academic writing, for me.)

            Peter isn’t into sample libraries but somehow feels compelled to cover this part of the scene. Turns out that it’s one of those situations where it makes sense to care about such things to discuss them appropriately. Getting someone on board to discuss these on CDM would make even more sense than “acq’hiring” Palm Sounds.

  • chaircrusher

    Not that interested in a brass sample set. Comes from growing up playing in orchestras, watching my dad conduct symphonies. Even when a soundtrack composers who get extra fancy with articulations and expensive orchestral sample libraries, I can still pick out what’s real playing and what’s fake.

    What’s really weird about this thing is not what it sounds like or how it works, but those strange golden chrome bars for the sliders. It looks like the inside of a strip mall beauty shop circa 1983.

    • chaircrusher

      If you’re looking for production tricks, my Mom (who has produced 100s of hours of studio recordings for educational curriculum) has a favorite: Bring in the MIDI sequenced ensemble strings, but record real string players doubling the parts. The sampled ensemble parts fill out the sound and the overdubbed real players humanize the sample. She’d hire a string quartet for a session and make it sound like an orchestra.

      • Can be a pretty cool trick. Now that audio-to-MIDI is becoming usable, it can probably go in reverse (start with instrumental sounds, double with synth versions).

        And the lack of realism in most synthetic sounds for brass and woodwinds probably contributes a lot to the attitude Peter and others may display when discussing sounds of blown instruments. It’s a bit like the “uncanny valley” in computer graphics. Easier to play with a truly synthetic sound (like the “brass” patches on an analog subtractive synth) than an emulation of a full-fledged acoustic instrument. Wonder if “synthists” have the same attitude with bowed strings. They certainly don’t sound like they have that much of a problem with emulations of plucked and keyboard instruments. When Bastl did its Karplus-Strong, Kirn praised them instead of dismissing that whole category of sounds.

        But, otherwise, this whole badmouthing of all brass and “winds” really puzzles me. Why do they feel compelled to use these sounds if they don’t like them?

        In my experience, no synthesized or sampled sound meant to reproduce a woodwind or brass instrument is ever fully satisfying. But there’s a whole scale from “completely unusable” to “probably serviceable with some care”. Been quite interested with the latter, especially for use with my wind controllers.

        To be honest, as a sax player, been finding the Studio Horns in Logic Pro X 10.4 to be pretty decent, if you play with articulations and/or use them as ensembles. Can also be somewhat pleased with the Silverwood ensemble in Reaktor. Even some of the woodwinds and brass patches in iWavestation can come in handy. Not to mention physical modelling like the clarinet in EigenD. Of course, there’s always a point when you notice that it’s not a real sound being played live, so it “breaks the magic” if you try to use those the same way you would any full piece played by an experienced player on an acoustic instrument. But this point can be pushed a bit further if you avoid some of the limitations and integrate those sounds in a broader context.

        Much of the same can be said about voice. But Peter already demonstrated a peculiar attraction to the strange sounds of Vocaloid. Maybe he genuinely just doesn’t care about any kind of wind instrument (unlike ROLI’s Roland Lamb, who sounds like a pianist with a horn-envy).

        • Max

          The vocaloid thing is really big in nippon, it just leaves the rest of the world in puzzled amazement. ^^

          • And the brass thing is really big with people from diverse parts of the world. Part of cultural awareness is about putting biases in context.